In its long-awaited long-term plan, published yesterday (January 7), NHS England said it aims to “explore further efficiencies” in community pharmacy, by reforming the sector's “reimbursement and wider supply arrangements”.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English board chair Sandra Gidley told C+D the “big concern” regarding what these efficiencies could mean in practice “must be sending a chill through every community pharmacist”.
“The fact [NHS England] is mentioning it at all drives me to think it's not going to be good,” she said.
“It’s very worrying, because a big thrust [of the plan] is talking about prevention, and community pharmacy is in a fantastic position to deliver some of that. But there isn’t much mention of [the sector] in that context.”
NHS England said it would make “reforms to the payment system” across all NHS organisations, by moving “funding away from activity-based payments and ensure a majority of funding is population-based”. However, it did not specify if community pharmacy would be affected by these reforms.
Ms Gidley said the efficiencies “could be linked” to this funding move, alongside NHS England’s plan to fund “community multidisciplinary teams”.
PSNC unsure what efficiencies government wants
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) told C+D that it “did not yet know the government’s view on ‘further efficiencies’”.
“We hope this is an indication that they are ready to talk about finding ways to free up community pharmacists’ time so that they can focus more on patient care and delivering new services, rather than dispensing medicines,” PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said.
RPS: “Cautious welcome” to the plan
In its document, NHS England also said it plans to make “greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients”.
This includes working with community pharmacists to test patients for “high-risk conditions” such as high blood pressure, to offer medicines reviews and inhaler advice to patients with respiratory disease, the creation of “pharmacy connection schemes”, and NHS 111 referrals to pharmacies that support urgent care.
Ms Gidley gave a “cautious welcome” to the “broader sphere” of the plan, as it was “good to see pharmacists in all settings mentioned”.
“We need to be thinking smarter about community pharmacists' role for monitoring long-term conditions [and] taking pressure off GP surgeries,” she added.